Luckily, the answer is YES! You can’t change your genes, but you can change your gene expression. What does that mean? It means that what you eat, think, do, etc impacts what genes turn ON and what genes turn OFF. It’s just like flicking a light switch. Every time you put food in your mouth certain genes get turned on or off. And it’s not just food that impacts your genes, it’s also all the other areas of your lifestyle and environment like are you really stressed out all the time, or worried or stuck in negative thinking, or is your sleeping not optimal and your not resting enough versus a situation where all of this is the exact opposite. You can probably guess that positive lifestyle choices switch on the genes that benefit you and turn off the genes that promote disease and vice versa with less optimal lifestyle choices.
How do your genes work?
Our genes code the building blocks for our body, i.e. proteins, which are made up of amino acids (your body makes some of them and gets others from your diet). Genes get activated or de-activated through proteins that sit on top of your genes and this form of gene activation is called epigenetics. Through epigenetics you can affect genes that you’ve inherited that for example make you susceptible to certain diseases.
This type of gene regulation can happen throughout your life and/or be inherited from one generation to the other. In this case you’re inheriting the way a gene functions. In a Swedish study it was noticed that the diet of grandparents affected their grandchildren’s health and lifespan. The grandchildren of grandparents who experienced lack of food between the age of 9 and 12 died less often of cardiovascular diseases than others. On the other hand, grandchildren of grandparents with plenty of food to eat before puberty died 4 times more often from adult-onset diabetes than the grandchildren of grandparents with limited amounts of food to eat. So essentially you can have genes turned on or off that get transferred to your children or grandchildren.
You can affect 95% of the gene mutations that can cause disease
If you’ve inherited genes that make yous susceptible to certain diseases, I’ve got great news for you. Only 5% of gene mutations related to diseases are fully penetrant, which means that if you get this gene mutation you’ll get the disease at some point of your life. So you have the ability to affect the rest of the 95% of the gene mutations related to disease with your environment, lifestyle choices and nutrition. ( You can read more on the subject in “Super Genes”, Deepak Chopra & Rudolph E. Tanzi) Positive lifestyle choices like meditation, stress reduction, good quality sleep, a balanced diet and moderate exercise affect you positively on a genetic level. According to a study by Dr. Dean Ornish, positive lifestyle changes can change the expression of 500 different genes in a very short period of time.
Even though we often focus on nutrition and diet, I think it’s as important or even more important what our attitude, beliefs (“I’m not good enough” versus “I am good enough”) and how you perceive and react to things that happen to you. My intention is to give you hope that you can have a major impact on your genes and your health and even if you do nothing to change your diet, good sleep, a joyful mind and some time to wind down through exercise or being outside can do wonders for you!
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